An Open Learning Perspective for Cities: Scaling Up Capacity Building for Urban Transformation | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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  • During the World Urban Forum session, participants discovered three major ways discussion around capacity-building is changing: through iterative learning, partnerships, and peer-to-peer learning.
  • The World Bank Group takes the learning agenda extremely seriously, having launched a successful e-Institute three years ago, and more recently, launching a MOOC on climate change, attracting more than 19,500 registered users.
  • The World Bank is now building a single destination for transformational learning, the Open Learning Campus, to experiment more broadly with different formats of learning.
(c) World Bank. WBI Director of Knowledge Exchange & Learning, Abha Joshi-Ghani, speaks at a WBI session during the World Urban Forum, held in Colombia April 5-11.

April 14, 2014―Recently, at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, the World Bank Institute (WBI) invited a number of partners to discuss the way forward on learning and capacity development for the urban space. The goal of the session: brainstorm about the innovations needed to scale-up learning, and ensure that learning and capacity building for cities is an integral part of the discussions at Habitat III in 2016.

The session was kicked off by Abha Joshi-Ghani, the Director of Knowledge Exchange and Learning at WBI, who began by noting stark realities: three billion people will be moving to cities by 2030. Ninety percent of this transformational shift will take place in Asia and Africa, with emerging and secondary cities absorbing most of the growth. The challenges of inclusion, equity, congestion, crime and violence, and informality—already significant today— loom even larger. Currently, we are simply not equipped to deal with the increasing challenges of urbanization. “What we have today is peak urbanization and low capacity," said Joshi-Ghani. This observation was reinforced by a recent poll, in which close to 25% of those surveyed put a “lack of capacity” as one of the top obstacles to reform and city performance.

At the same time though, cities hold the promise and potential to lift millions out of poverty and boost shared prosperity. To fulfill their potential, however, cities will need to address the capacity gaps, and find ways to deliver services to their citizens, to better manage their finances, and to promote sustainability and inclusivity.

During the session in Medellin, participants found that there are three major ways in which the discussion around capacity-building is changing. Going forward, capitalizing on these trends will be absolutely crucial.

  1. Iterative learning –increasingly sophisticated and tested technology is facilitating iterative learning with quick real time feedback loops
  2. Partnerships – an increasingly wider array of actors can help scale-up and localize capacity-building efforts.
  3. Peer-to-peer learning—city-city dialogues and exchanges are allowing cities to share the best solutions to common problems. Innovation happens at the grass-roots level, and peer networks help scale up local solutions. 

From the session, it also became clear that we will have to use multiple learning formats if we want to transfer knowledge widely and effectively. Online learning, for instance, offers scale and immediacy. Just-in-time learning can be highly efficient and relevant. Real-time “labbing” is another promising format—the Global Lab on Metropolitan Strategic Planning for instance, launched in 2013 with 15 developing country cities across the six regions and in partnership with the 4th regional plan for New York, allows cities to develop their strategies with inputs from other metropolitan areas and use modalities from multiple sectors and across the North and South. Within a year of its launch, the Lab has proved to be a real opportunity for cities to experiment and learn from one another in real-time.

open-quotesWhat we have today is peak urbanization and low capacity.close-quotesAbha Joshi-Ghani, the Director of Knowledge Exchange and Learning, WBI For its part, the World Bank Group is taking the learning agenda extremely seriously. Three years ago, the World Bank launched its e-Institute, which successfully piloted online learning and knowledge exchange activities. Since then, the World Bank has continued to experiment, launching a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on climate change, which attracted more than 19,500 registered users. Now, given the success of the e-Institute, the evolving learning landscape, and the clear and overwhelming need for capacity building worldwide, we have decided to take the concept further. The World Bank is now building a single destination for transformational learning, the Open Learning Campus.

Under this initiative, we will experiment more broadly with different formats of learning: iterative learning, just-in-time and bite-sized learning, structured learning, and peer-to-peer learning. Crucially, it will unite learning for World Bank staff, clients, and the general public under a single platform. And it will allow us to partner more broadly with a range of universities, development agencies, and other actors.  As we move forward, we hope the World Bank Group will help expand the frontiers of open learning even further.

Comments (3)

capacity building of cities

Citizens are the most important state holders in cities. Need to evolve modules focussing on citizens and way they can play their role in city issues.

Private Companies, NGO's and Governments

The emphasis in the article is on Governments, is there any plans to include Private Organisations and NGO's as well ?

Capacity Building

MOOC is a good initiative and will help number of local Govt officials to upgrade their knowledge, however, computer literacy, availability of internet connections etc .,still remains a constraints in smaller municipalities in India and therefore, on the job hand holding support still remians a major requirement for capacity building and change of attitudes for particularly lower level officils in a typical small size municipality in South Asia.

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